Brahms, Johannes

Schumann received him with open mind, then with warmest interest and finally regarded him with unbounded enthusiasm as their acquaintance progressed. In the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, Oct. 28, 1853, Schumann printed the now famous article Neue Bahnen (New Paths), filled with such praise of Brahms as to attract to the young composer the attention of the whole music world of Germany.

 

Shortly an invitation arrived from Leipsic that he come there and play some of his compositions at the Gewandhaus, and in December he appeared, giving the Scherzo in E flat minor and the Sonata in C. To his surprise there now arose a heated controversy about his work; he was assailed by both classes; one side did not hesitate to affirm that never would he become a star of the first magnitude, the other expressed the wish that he might speedily be delivered from over-enthusiastic patrons. Meanwhile progress with the publishers advanced, and eight of his important works were published during the winter.

The friendship with Joachim and the Schumanns grew apace, and when Schumann's mental trouble asserted itself so tragically, both Joachim and Brahms were untiring in their devotion to him and his family, Brahms spending much time at Dusseldorf. During these days he gave concerts with Julius Stockhausen, the distinguished singer, with whom he formed a warm friendship; and played in public with Joachim and Mme. Schumann. An opening at the Court of Lippe-Detmold presently offering, he was installed there as Court-Director. The Court of Lippe-Detmold being a quiet one, he had the best of opportunity for study and composition and season after season lived here in contented retirement, seemingly forgetful of the furore he had started and that he was but beginning his career. This period was marked by only one published work and few public appearances as a player. But this retirement was only temporary, he was preparing by a long and severe course of study to again present himself to the world; in which he was finally to take his place, not as leader of a new school, not as overthrower and destroyer, but as Hadow suggests, "as artist contemplative rather than artist militant." Brahms, whose early work was so highly praised by the romanticists, in the end proved to them a disappointment. Daniel Gregory Mason, in his book From Grieg to Brahms, remarks: "If he had followed out the path he was on, as any contemporary observer would have expected, he would have become the most radical of romanticists. At thirty he would have been' a bright star in the musical firmament, at forty he would have been one of several bright stars, at fifty he would have been clever and disappointed. It required rare insight in so young a man, suddenly successful, to realize the danger, rare courage to avert it."

His Piano Concerto in D minor, produced at the Leipsic Gewandhaus, Jan. 27, 1859, was received unfavorably and aroused much opposition, but it should be noted that it eventually met here with a very different reception. The next work was the Serenade in D, which was given its first public appearance in Ham-burg. When not engaged at Detmold, Brahms was accustomed to spend considerable time in Hamburg with his parents, as well as to make long visits to Göttingen and Switzerland. Now was brought forth a rich number of works and some of his masterpieces. In 1861 appeared the exquisite Ave Marie for female voices, orchestra and organ; the Funeral Hymn for chorus and wind-instruments; the D minor Concerto; the first two sets of piano variations; and two volumes of songs and duets. In 1862, were published four part-songs for female chorus, with accompaniment of horn and harp; two books of Marienlieder; a volume of songs; two sets of variations for piano; and the String Sextet in B flat, which has been pronounced the most magnificent piece of chamber-music appearing since Beethoven.

And to these days might be added the Piano Quartets in G minor and A major, though not published till 1863, after Brahms was established in Vienna. There were strong attractions drawing him to the Austrian capital, not the least his growing interest in Hungarian music, an interest doubtless awakened by the association with Remenyi. Brahms found the musical circles of Vienna ready to welcome him, for while his compositions were little known by the public, the musicians were all aware of him. His scholarly playing was approved and his work as composer began to be appreciated. He found the atmosphere congenial and from now on dwelt in Vienna; though with frequent intervals of roaming, for he was excessively fond of travel. In the summer of 1863, he was appointed conductor of the Singakademie. During the year he occupied the post he refused reelection he devoted himself to it with much zeal, and the experience as choral conductor proved of great value.

It is of interest to note that Brahms and Wagner came to Vienna the same year. They were occasionally thrown together, but neither appears to have courted any intimacy, the two being not at all in sympathy. Wagner's attitude toward Brahms was disdainful. Brahms did not profess enthusiasm for the theatre, and frankly confessed that he did not understand Wagner. Brahms bound himself to no school; and living in the strife stirred up by Wagner, he calmly kept to his way, holding to the best of the old, bending with listening ear to the message of the new.